Epidemiological studies give evidence that cruciferous vegetables (CF) protect humans against cancer, and also results from animal experiments show that they reduce chemically induced tumor formation. These properties have been attributed to alterations in the metabolism of carcinogens by breakdown products of glucosinolates, which are constituents of CF. The present article gives an overview on the present state of knowledge on the impact of CF and their constituents on enzymes that are involved in the metabolism of DNA-reactive carcinogens. The development of in vitro models with metabolically competent cell lines led to the detection of potent enzyme inducers contained in CF such as sulforaphane. Recently, we showed that Brassica juices induce glutathione-S-transferases (GST) and cytochrome P-450 1A2 in human hepatoma cells (HepG2) and protect against the genotoxic effects of B(a)P and other carcinogens. Earlier in vivo experiments with rodents indicated that indoles and isothiocyanates, two major groups of glucosinolate breakdown products, attenuate the effects of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and nitrosamines via induction of GST and inhibition of cytochrome-P450 isoenzymes, respectively. Our own investigations showed that CF are also protective towards heterocyclic amines (HAs): Brussels sprouts- and garden cress juices attenuated IQ-induced DNA-damage and preneoplastic lesions in colon and liver of rats. These effects were paralleled by induction of uridine-di-phospho-glucuronosyl transferase (UDPGT) which is very probably the mechanism of protection against HAs by cruciferous vegetables. There is also evidence that consumption of CF might protect humans against cancer. In matched control intervention studies with these vegetables, it was shown that they induce GST-activities in humans but overall, results were inconclusive. Recently, we carried out crossover intervention studies and found pronounced GST-induction upon consumption of Brussels sprouts and red cabbage, whereas no effects were seen with white cabbage and broccoli. Furthermore, we found that the isoenzyme induced was GST-pi which plays an important role in protection against breast, bladder, colon and testicular cancer. No induction of the GST-alpha isoform could be detected. Urinary mutagenicity experiments gave further evidence that CF affect drug metabolism in humans. Consumption of red cabbage led to changes in the pattern of meat-derived urinary mutagenicity. Overall, CF are among the most promising chemopreventive dietary constituents and further elucidation of their protective mechanisms and the identification of active constituents may contribute to the development of highly protective Brassica varieties.